It was just too fast. No excuses, no bad legs. It was just too fast for Tejay van Garderen on Sunday.
The BMC co-leader couldn’t hold the pace on the final climb of the day and trailed his GC rivals by a minute and 28 seconds by the finish line. He seemed at a loss to explain the time loss.
“To be honest, I felt fine. Just the pace was pretty incredible,” he said. “I can’t say that it was bad sensations, it was just above the level that I had on the day.”
Van Garderen, who has twice finished fifth at the Tour de France, slipped to eighth overall. He now sits just behind his teammate Richie Porte.
His latest loss came in a massive if underrated stage, featuring over 4,000 meters (13,100 feet) of climbing across six categorized climbs. As a large breakaway attacked itself up the road, the GC group slowly whittled down behind. In the end 16 riders finished together in Chris Froome’s yellow jersey group. Van Garderen was the only rider currently sitting in the top 10 to miss the selection.
“I wasn’t really thinking anything,” he said of the moment he was dropped. “I was just kind of in my own world. Just trying to hold the wheel in front of me, but I couldn’t hold it.”
The BMC duo are now 4:27 and 4:47 down, respectively. Adam Yates (Orica – BikeExchange) sits in third at 2:45. So the podium is not completely out of reach, but it will take a big ride to find even the last step in Paris.
“I think it is good just to come through that unscathed and then get through tomorrow into the rest day,” Porte said. “Then it is every man for himself, really, in that last week.”
There will be plenty of opportunities in the final week, which features a string of stages across the Alps that Froome described as the hardest of this Tour.
“Anything can happen,” van Garderen said. “Once you get into the third week of a grand tour it’s like Russian roulette, it could be anyone’s day.”